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Welcome to this Week in Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.imemc.org, for 4th, September to 10th, 2010
As Palestinians and Israelis start direct peace talks, Palestinians demand settlement freeze in order to continue with the talks, and the settlers set up assaults against Palestinian civilians, these stories and more are coming up, stay tuned.
Lets us begin our weekly report as usual with the nonviolent activities in West Bank
The Nonviolence Report
This week villagers from Al -Walajah, southern West Bank, and Bil’in, central West Bank organized their weekly anti wall protests.
In other villages who organize weekly nonviolent protest, the villagers decided to visit their relatives on the Muslim Holiday of Eid Al-Fitr to promote integrity and to support each other instead of the direct action for this week.
In the West Bank village of Al-Walajah, near Bethlehem, hundreds of the villagers gathered near the construction site of the wall and held the Holiday prayer in the early hours of Friday morning, to protest the confiscation of their land by the Israeli authorities and the construction of the wall.
During the activity the Sheikh of the village spoke to the crowd about the need to continue with the nonviolent demonstrations and to resist the wall until it is removed. The Israeli military was present, however, they did not interrupt the protest.
Elsewhere, dozens of Palestinians along with International and Israeli supporters marched in the village of Bil’in after Friday’s noon prayer to protest the construction of the annexation wall on their lands. As protesters arrived near the gate of the wall, Israeli troops fired a number of teargas canisters at them causing a number of protesters to choke. The wounded were treated by field medics.
Staying in Bil’in, The Spanish Parliament followed the footsteps of the EU and the Desmond Tutu of the Elders, and joined the rising tide of international criticism over Abu Rahmah’s conviction of incitement by an Israeli military court. Abu Rahmah, the coordinator of the Bil’in Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlements, was sentenced to two year in jail time; he was arrested by the military on December of 2009.
Abu Rahmah activist was acquitted of two out of the four charges brought against him in the indictment – stone-throwing and a ridiculous and vindictive arms possession charge
The court did, however, find Abu Rahmah guilty of two of the most draconian anti-free speech articles in military legislation: incitement, and organizing and participating in illegal demonstrations. It did so based only on testimonies of minors who were arrested in the middle of the night and denied their right to legal counsel, and despite acknowledging significant ills in their questioning.
Commenting on the Israeli court verdict Human Rights Watch said that this raises grave due process concerns.
As Israelis and Palestinians start direct peace talks, Palestinian complain of Israel’s ongoing settlement activities in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, meanwhile Israeli leaders insist that Israel has the right to build settlements, an issue that might end the direct peace talks on the end of September, the details with IMEMC’s George Rishmawi
The end of September might be the end of peace talks, if Israel refuses to extend the settlement freeze, the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said earlier this week.
President Abbas was quoted as saying ‘This was made clear to President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton and to the Israeli Prime Minister, and I told him ‘You have to know that if you don’t continue with the settlement freeze, we will leave these negotiations’.’
In the meantime, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Minister of Defence Ehud Barak, clearly indicated that Israel will not renew the settlement freeze.
On his part, Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, vowed to act against any decision to freeze settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, including in occupied East Jerusalem.
In an interview with the Israeli Radio, Lieberman said that his party, Yisrael Beiteinu (in english Israel Our Home) has enough power in the government to prevent any decision against settlement activities.
On the other hand, local observers maintain that despite Israel’s declaration of a settlement freeze, there was no real freeze. During the claimed 10-month freeze, Israeli settlement watchdog ‘Peace Now’ reported 492 violations of the freeze.
Based in part on aerial photographs, the group said construction had begun on at least 600 housing units in 60 different settlements.
Palestinian Legislator, Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, stated that while Israel is heading to peace talks with the Palestinians; its government continues its illegal settlement activities in the occupied West Bank and in occupied East Jerusalem.
The Palestinian President has also made some critical statements regarding the borders of the future Palestinian State. He said that he informed the Israeli and American diplomat’s that the border issue is more important than the security issue.
He added that his approach to borders would begin with the 1967 lines and demarcating a Palestinian state from there. ‘Once we have the borders set, we can find a solution for Jerusalem, the water issue and the settlements,’ he said,and adding that the issue of refugees would be tackled in the next round, warning that he is willing to resign if asked to give up the rights of Palestinian refugees.
In the meantime, tension between the two major Palestinian parties was heightened after the Palestinian Authority security forces arrested around 750 Hamas members and affiliates in the West Bank.
Hamas issued a statement warning the Palestinian Authority of continuing these arrests and called upon its members and supporters in the West Bank to resist the arrest.
The arrest campaign came shortly after Hamas claimed responsibility for the deadly attack against Israeli settlers last week which claimed the lives of four Israeli settlers, and another attack in which two settlers were wounded.
For IMEMC.org this is George Rishmawi
West Bank and Gaza
Israeli military forces conducted 47 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank, and abducted 23 Palestinian civilians, including a child, in the West Bank and launched air strikes against a number of targets in the Gaza Strip, killing two and wounding others, with IMEMC’s. Cathy Smith has more.
On Thursday night, the Israeli Air Force carried out five airstrikes targeting a number of areas in different parts of the Gaza Strip inflicting damage and a number of injuries.
A Palestinian medical source reported that a number of Palestinian security officers suffered mild injuries due to the shelling which targeted a security facility west of Gaza city.
In Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, the Israeli Air Force conducted three Air strikes targeting tunnels along the borders with Egypt; excessive damage was reported but no injuries.
Furthermore, the Israeli warships fired three missiles at two tunnels near the Salah Ed Deen Gate in the southern Gaza Strip, and on a local livestock market in Gaza City causing serious damage to the property, but no injuries.
The Israeli attack also included a site claimed to be training grounds for the Al Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas.
The Army said that the attack came after Palestinian fighters fired shells and a mortar into southern Israel.
On Saturday, 4th of September, two Palestinians were killed and three others were injured in an Israeli airstrike on the southern part of the coastal enclave.
In the West Bank, an Israeli settler opened fire, on Tuesday, at Palestinian cars driving near the northern city of Nablus.
According to a Palestinian driver, the settler created a road block and opened fire at him as he drove near him at the entrance of Kedumim settlement. The driver said that he did not stop to question the settler, but kept on driving as he was driving a patient to the hospital, adding that he saw the settler stopping other Palestinian cars on the road.
On Thursday, many armed Israeli settlers coming from ‘Halmish’ settlement, northwest of Ramallah, closed the main road in front of the settlement. They terrified and provoked Palestinian civilians traveling on the road. Israeli forces intervened later and moved the settlers away from the road.
Later on the same day, Israeli settlers from ‘Shilo’ settlement, north of Ramallah, threw stones at a Palestinian civilian vehicle that was traveling on Ramallah-Nablus road. As a result, the front window was broken.
On Saturday, a number of Israeli setters gathered at Homesh intersection, northwest of Nablus. They threw stones at Palestinian civilian vehicles traveling on Nablus-Jenin road.
Also this week, Israeli forces transformed 3 Palestinian houses into military sites in Hebron.
For IMEMC.org this is Cathy winther
And that was just some of the news from this week in Palestine, for more updates; please visit our website at www.imemc.org. Thank you for joining us from occupied Bethlehem, this report has been brought to you by Husam Qassis and Dina Awwad